Five steps to ensure campfire safety
May 14, 2019

By Judith Myddleton

Acting Chief of Fire Prevention, Barrie Fire & Emergency Service

Instructor, Pre-Service Firefighter Education and Training program, Georgian College

It’s almost the long weekend – the unofficial start to summer, and everyone’s favourite time to have a campfire. But before you light the match, consider these important safety tips to keep people, animals, and forests safe.

1. Check that you’re allowed to build a fire

  • Make sure there isn’t a fire ban in your area.
  • Avoid an expensive fine by checking if municipal recreational burn permits are required where you are.

2. Pick a safe spot

  • Select an open location that’s at least five feet from any structure (check your municipal rules).
  • Have a ready source of water (like a hose, lake or river) close by.
  • Make sure the spot is far from possible fuels like overhanging branches, logs and brush.
  • Dig a fire pit and make sure the fire surface is level.
  • Circle the fire pit with stones.
  • Scrape the area around the pit until you get down to the soil (remove grass, leaves and needles).

3. Build a smart fire

  • Don’t build a fire when the wind is high.
  • Don’t use gas or kerosene to start your fire.
  • Discard your match carefully, after it has completely cooled.
  • Start small, with dry twigs and small sticks, and then build up slowly.
  • Put the big pieces of wood on last and point them toward the centre.
  • Don’t build your fire any higher than needed for cooking or warmth.
  • Don’t burn dangerous items like aerosols, glass or cans.
  • BONUS TIP: Try to use local firewood, because wood from outside areas may contain invasive species.
A campire burning in the woods
Never leave a campfire unattended

4. Watch the fire

  • Keep a shovel and bucket of water nearby at all times, in case the fire gets out of control.
  • Make sure someone is attending the fire as long as it is burning.
  • Never leave children or pets near the fire unattended.

5. Completely extinguish the fire

  • Try to let the wood burn completely to ash – even embers can be dangerous.
  • Drown the fire with water, and then stir the fire area until everything is wet and the ashes don’t hiss.
  • Feel the area carefully to ensure nothing is smoldering.
  • Cover the area with dirt.

Interested in a career as a firefighter?

In Georgian’s Pre-Service Firefighter Education and Training program, students gain the knowledge and skills of basic fire science, fire suppression principles and practice, first responder emergency care, and fire prevention and public education. This program also provides students with specialty knowledge in confined space and water and ice rescue. The three-semester program meets National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) Standards.